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LisbonTramPublicTransit
Lisbon Tram/Flickr: We Love Lisbon

Even if you prefer to avoid mass transit in your day-to-day life, there are a few places where riding a bus, tram, or ferry can be the highlight of your vacation. The following public transportation services offer views as good as or better than you would get on a sightseeing tour — and for much better prices.

Lisbon’s Trams

Lisbon’s charming tram network adds a splash of color to an already picture-perfect city. Take a ride on the number 28, which passes through many of Lisbon’s essential districts, climbing the steep hill of Baixa, past the tiled buildings of Graça, and narrow streets of Alfama before heading west to the Estrela Basilica. (€2.85; around $3.)

The Staten Island Ferry, New York City

Staten Island Ferry/Flickr: clearrants
Staten Island Ferry/Flickr: clearrants

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New York City’s best deal — the Staten Island Ferry — runs 24/7 at no cost, offering excellent views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty. (Free.)

Valparaíso’s Funiculars

Valparaiso Funicular/Flickr: Paula Soler-Moya
Valparaiso Funicular/Flickr: Paula Soler-Moya

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In a city of steep hills, the brightly painted, wooden carriages of Valparaíso’s vintage ascensores offer tired legs a rest along with sweeping city views. There are 22 ascensores in the city. One of the best for tourists is Polanco, built in 1915, which is a vertical lift rather than a funicular and offers some of most picturesque views. (From 300 CLP; 45¢.)

Bosphorus Ferry, Istanbul

Istanbul Ferry/Flickr: bass_nroll
Istanbul Ferry/Flickr: bass_nroll

The 20-minute ferry ride across the Bosphorus takes passengers from Europe to Asia, and back, and offers some of the city’s best viewpoints. Minarets pierce the skyline and you’ll also spot the distinctive dome of the Hagia Sophia and the Galata Tower. (3.50TL; around $1.10.)

Venice’s Vaporetto

Venice Vaporetto/Flickr: Mark Hintsa
Venice Vaporetto/Flickr: Mark Hintsa

With almost no cars, Venice is navigated by foot and by water, and the city’s water buses — the vaporetti — transport passengers along the Grand Canal. First-time visitors should take Route 1, which makes every stop along the way from Santa Lucia Railway Station to St Mark’s Square, and across to The Lido. This being Venice, it’s an expensive ticket, but certainly cheaper than a gondola ride. (7.50; around $8.14.)

Bus Route 11, London

London Bus Westminster/Flickr: Sarah Price
London Bus Westminster/Flickr: Sarah Price

While the red double-decker buses of London are icons in their own right, a first-time visitor would do well to hop aboard Route 11 for an affordable tour of the city’s best sights. From Chelsea and Belgravia, the route travels to Westminster, Trafalgar Square, the Strand, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Bank of England, before finishing up at Liverpool Station, a short stroll from Brick Lane and Spitalfields. (£1.50; around $1.90.)

Star Ferry, Hong Kong

Hong Kong Star Ferry/ Flickr: Bernard Spragg
Hong Kong Star Ferry/ Flickr: Bernard Spragg

A beloved icon of Hong Kong, the Star Ferry has transported passengers across Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon since the late 19th century. Prices remain low and, despite the city’s efficient network of road and rail tunnels, over 70,000 passengers a day opt to make the trip on the water. (HK$2.50; around 32¢ on weekdays and HK$3.40; 44¢ on weekends and holidays.)

Helicopter, Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands/Facebook: Atlantic Airways
Faroe Islands/Facebook: Atlantic Airways

While, globally, it’s more of a luxury experience than mode of public transportation, the helicopter is vital in linking the small island communities of the Faroe Islands. Helicopter travel is subsidized by the Faroese government, offering remarkably low fares on Atlantic Airways’ inter-island network. (From $20 one way.)

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